Every local person that approaches you while you travel has an intention, either honest or dishonest. They’ve got something to gain from you, whether they consciously calculated it or not. By remaining aware of this fact and trying to evaluate locals’ intentions, you can develop your street smarts and interact with local people with a more discerning, skeptical eye.
Innocent intentions abound.
Depending on the country you travel to, many of the people that approach you simply have innocent intentions. For example, some people have a great interest in your lifestyle as a foreigner, and are dying to know more about you and your country. They will proceed to ask you a plethora of questions with a genuine surprised look of curiosity on their faces. These people want to get knowledge from you. They may also want to practice their English with you.
Sometimes locals just want to be seen with you. You can tell this is the case when a local person approaches you, asks some quick questions, then keeps looking back at his group of friends to see their reaction. Oftentimes this type of person will ask to take a picture with you. People like this want the social proof of being seen with a foreigner.
Financial intentions a-plenty.
Then there’s the people that want money from you. Unless you have the uncommon experience of appearing to be a local (e.g. a Chinese-American traveling in China), money-minded locals will notice you a mile away and see you as a walking dollar sign. There is nothing inherently wrong with this – locals need to earn a living just like everyone else. However, the problem comes when they are not upfront with their business or financial intentions, and try to extract money from you through lying, deception, fake-friendliness, or other dishonest methods. It is your job to spot this type of person.
Where a person approaches you can make all the difference. Certain areas that you travel to are hotspots for liars, cheats, and scam artists. These areas include transportation hubs like bus and train stations, and tourist districts where there are a concentration of guesthouses, hostels, bars, or restaurants. Oftentimes, you will be approached by random local people in these locations. Here are a few types of people you may come across while traveling:
- The Smooth-Talker (aka the Fake Friend) - This is a person who randomly approaches you on the street and starts running game on you immediately. By “running game,” I mean that this guy is conversing with you in a very calculated, script-like way. He will typically ask a barrage of formulaic questions punctuated by an occasional monologue about himself. He is trying to force a conversation and become your fake friend, constantly wanting to be by your side (even though he just met you). You can spot a smooth-talker because he will always control the direction of the conversation. And invariably, that direction will lead to his own interests. For example, he will invite you to his restaurant, shop, or other business.
The Free Service Script-Flipper (aka the Guilt Tripper) - There’s a whole range of people that fall into this type, but the general idea is always the same. A local person approaches you with a free service, frequently insists that that service is free, then after finishing, the person flips their script and decides to ask for cash (or tries to guilt-trip you into giving money). An example of this is the free tour guide. A person will provide you with tour guide services “for free” at a famous historic landmark, then after finishing the tour will ask for money. Whenever a person offers you services for nothing, you’d better refuse it. Nothing in life is free.
- The Ulterior Motive Master (aka the Liar) - This type of person comes in many shapes and sizes and can often be difficult to spot. However, the main idea is that the person will take a request of yours, tell you that request is not possible, and then will redirect you to another alternative. That alternative is where he will makes his money, either directly or through a commission. One example can be seen in taxi drivers. If you arrive in a new city and need to take a taxi to a specific hotel, the driver may come up with some excuse as to why that is not possible. For example, he could say “Sorry, that hotel is closed for remodeling. But I know another cheap place that’s really nice…” If someone ever refuses your request for dubious reasons, always double-check their information with other people. Always question everything.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but you get the idea. By evaluating the intentions of locals, you can prevent most of the deception and hoodwinking that is directed your way. With practice developing your street smarts, you can learn to discern people who have innocent intentions versus those who have dishonest ones.
What are other types of dishonest people are there?
Have you experienced another type of dishonest person while traveling? If so, leave a comment and share your experience!